A new intern (Arden) started on the farm side of things this week which has doubled the number of female farm hands. Yay! And she’s a Virginia Tech student which is kind of awesome. She’s adorable and I’m excited to be working with her for the summer.
Today’s big task was weighing the year-old calves and removing their weaning rings. A weaning ring is a plastic ring that clips in the calf’s nose (it doesn’t pierce it) that makes it uncomfortable for mom when the calf tries to nurse so she kicks baby off and baby starts to eat more grass. The alternative to weaning rings is to separate cow and calf, but this can be traumatic for both parties. Using weaning rings allows cow and calf to remain together while still forcing the calf onto an adult diet of grass.
Calves are weaned between 3 and 10 months, though older is better. We aim to wean them around 6-8 months. Weaning at 8 months gives the cow a few months to put on weight and gives her a respite from lactation before she calves again in the spring. Here’s the cycle: cow gives birth in the spring, she is bred in the summer, the calf is weaned mid-winter and the cow gives birth again in the spring.
The whole process went surprisingly smoothly. We chased them into the barn where we’d set up a chute system that was just wide enough for them to fit in a single-file line. As they came through we were able to weigh them and remove the weaning rings. In a few weeks we will run the cows and heifers through the same system to weigh them and generally make sure they are in good health. Hopefully they are as cooperative as the calves were today.
My farmer’s tan is reaching epic proportions. I’ve been wearing tank tops whenever possible, though I still have some bad lines on my shoulders. The real problem is my legs. They get no sun. Check out that tone difference. The best part? Compare my obviously tanned arms to the average person and I still look pale. Sigh.